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#AztecMBB-Arizona Postgame Quotes


March 27, 2014

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ANAHEIM, Calif. -

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San Diego State Postgame Quotes

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher, Josh Davis, Xavier Thames, and Dwayne Polee. We'll open it up for a statement from Coach Fisher.
COACH FISHER: I told our team after the game how proud we as a staff were to have the privilege to have them all year, and I've never had a group in all my years that have been more willing to learn and be taught, which makes this even harder. I also told them anybody that watched the game live or on TV or listened to the radio had to see a team with character, with pride, with toughness, who could play, who put themselves in a position to win, but couldn't quite get it done. That is the hard part.
I told (Xavier Thames) and Josh (Davis) that I feel especially bad for them because one of these days we're going to get to a Final Four, and when we do, the two of them will be there with us because that's what our program exemplifies, and that's what we are all about.
Hard when it ends, but it's ending for us tonight, and we were beaten by a very good team and we're very disappointed.

Q. Dwayne, just talk a little bit about what you're going to miss about playing with the two seniors up there with you?
Dwayne Polee II: Well, I've known (Xavier Thames) for a couple years now. He's not only a great leader on the floor and a great teammate, but he's a great friend. He's accepted me with open arms as soon as I stepped foot on campus, so I always have love for (Xavier Thames), and I'm going to miss him dearly. (Josh Davis) came here as a fifth year senior and we welcomed him with open arms as well. He's one of the hardest working people that I know, hands down. So I wish them good luck in their further journeys.

Q. Xavier, you guys went through that scoring drought in the second half, that field goal drought. Scoring has been difficult at times this year for you guys. What are you doing as a point guard when you're in the midst of that? Are you trying different things? How do you deal with that? How do you handle that?
Xavier Thames: I just try to get my teammates involved or get something to myself, an easy bucket or get to the free throw line. But you've just got to give credit to Arizona. They're one of the top defensive teams in the country, just like us, so we just fell short tonight.

Q. Dwayne, you guys held Johnson scoreless for quite a while. Then what happened there in the final three minutes with him?
Dwayne Polee II: Well, Nick Johnson is a great player. I've known him for a while as well. You know, he just exploded in the second half, that's all I can really say. I can't say that we didn't play hard defense, but he just made a lot of good shots.

Q. Josh, this time last year you had a lot of options, and you decided to come to San Diego, which was a little bit of a chance at the time. It didn't look like it might be a Sweet Sixteen team. Can you just talk about your decision and how you feel about playing for this team?
Josh Davis:
It started with Coach Fisher and Coach Dutcher, having conversations with me and my family. It's something about Coach Fisher that you can trust him and believe in him and me and my family felt the same way. So I'm just glad I had the opportunity to be around these great guys.

Q. Xavier, this was supposed to be a transition year for the Aztecs. When the emotions of this game are over, how will you look upon this season?
Xavier Thames: Well, it was a great season. Nobody expected us to be here. I was going to miss playing with all the guys and miss all the coaching staff. Nobody expected us to be here and we were here, but all along we knew we had a great team, but I'm going to miss playing with all my brothers and coaching staff.

Q. Josh, you looked like you were a little bit limping there at the end. What happened to you?
Josh Davis: I had a little problem with my heels. Both of them were hurting, but it didn't really bother me during the game like that.

Q. Xavier, your time at San Diego State, your fondest memories as an Aztec?
Xavier Thames: Well, when I first got here they accepted me with open arms after I transferred from Washington State. Chase is my good friend and Jamaal and Kawhi and all them welcomed me with open arms. It's just a big family here. I'll never forget the days that I came here to be an Aztec. I'm going to support them next year and all the years to come. I just love everybody here, Coach Fisher, Coach Dutcher, Little Fish, Coach Hutson, Dave, all my teammates. I'm just going to miss playing with them and competing with them and going to practice each and every day. I'm just going to miss that.

Q. Xavier, earlier in the season when you guys played Arizona, I think outside your locker room there was an expectation that Arizona was probably going to win that game. I think this time going in there was much more of an expectation that you guys had a real chance. Can you talk about the season and how you guys raised everybody's expectations over the course of the season and how did you guys was that important to you?
Xavier Thames: I mean, we go out and expect to win each and every game. At the beginning of the year we thought we could win that game as well. But you know, we just fell short tonight, like I said, to a great Arizona team. You know, it's just a hard loss.

Q. Xavier, you kind of alluded to it in the question before that about coming back and about how the guys that were here when you got here, like Jamaal (Franklin) and Kawhi (Leonard), accepted you with open arms. Talk about kind of that family atmosphere and the fact that the alumni come back and that you guys have some ties with them? You guys that are seniors that are leaving are probably going to maintain the same type of ties that those other alumni have.
Xavier Thames: Yeah, like I said, it's just a big family here. Going back to Tony Bland and Lorrenzo Wade and Brandon Heath, all those guys come back and practice with us, give us advice. I'll do the same thing five or ten years down the road. If Coach (Fisher) is still coaching, or Coach Dutcher, I'm going to be there supporting the guys each and every day. Hopefully they can get to the Final Four, like Coach (Fisher) said, one day, and I'll be there front row and center.

Q. Kind of piggy backing off that question, all three of you are transfer students. So you kind of have a comparing and contrasting of two schools. What makes you so proud to be part of San Diego State? What makes you love this program so much? All three of you, if you can. Dwayne, maybe you first. What is the difference about San Diego State?
Dwayne Polee II: Just the family atmosphere. You know, everybody is so close knit. I think we live next door to each other, basically. So we're a close knit group of guys. We always are around each other, joking and laughing and there are no egos on this team. We're really like brothers on this team. Josh (Davis) and (Xavier Thames), I love them both and wish them good luck.
Josh Davis: I would say the main thing is that there are no egos on this team. That's hard to find on a lot of college teams. I just enjoy being around people who believe in each and trust in each other. They're great guys to be around.
Xavier Thames: What they said. We're all a family, no matter what. No matter how many points we score, no matter how many rebounds we get, we just want to win. We go out there and fight for each other each and every day. We're really brothers. We all live two apartments away from each other. We're always joking around and playing video games and things like that. So when we say it's a family, it's really a family here. It's not just talk. It's really a family here and we're really brothers.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Fisher.

Q. Can you talk about the defense on Nick Johnson and how you guys really contained him and the first ten missed shots for so long and that kind of hurt you guys at the end?
COACH FISHER: I talked at halftime about the fact that he was 0-for-7 from the field. He's their best player. He's saying I'm going to help you, and we have to say we're not going to let him go off on us the way he has so often. If you look at the box score, I think he scored a three with under approximate 3:00 to go, made ten straight free throws in the last 1:32. So he got 13 of his 15 points in the last couple three minutes. Good players do that. We were trying to say foul anybody but him. They did a nice job of finding a way to get him the ball. I thought a couple times we fouled him when we didn't have to. But he's a player. He knows how to play, and good players stay with it. Next play, and he did that, and he did that to us tonight.

Q. Coach, in a season where you were picked to finish fourth in the conference, ended up making the Sweet Sixteen. Do you take some special satisfaction in just the fact that you've raised expectations nationally about this program that you guys are always going to be there really every season?
COACH FISHER: That's what we hope we're doing. We've been five straight years in the tournament. We're newbies to this stage. We've only been to the Sweet Sixteen twice, and we want more. I think, again, having played a schedule that's gone on the road and won some games, we won in here against some good people on a neutral site, elevates the perception of the program. I do think that now we have a perception nationally of, hey, they're good. They're supposed to be good. I like that. Our players like that. I think a good pressure of expectations is now on our program. So one of these days we're going to be here second in the Sweet Sixteen game, and hopefully that will be next year.

Arizona Postgame Quotes
THE MODERATOR: We're going to be joined by Arizona head coach Sean Miller and student athletes Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson, and T.J. McConnell. We'll start with a statement from the coach and open it up to questions. Coach, an opening statement?
COACH MILLER: Well, first of all, we've played 37 games now. That was the most physical, hard fought game of the season for us. I thought San Diego State really set the tone on how the game was going to be played. I mean, they might have had seven or eight second shots in the first three minutes of the game. And their physicality, their athleticism, their toughness, they've got a tremendous team and a great program. We knew that before the game. That wasn't a surprise to us. But the story is about us advancing. It took tremendous toughness and resolve. I felt like we overcame Nick not scoring, Kaleb in foul trouble. The beginning of the game, giving up that many second shots, you don't get to this level without having that toughness and resolve that we have. That, to me, was the story line of the game. Us finding a way, being tough minded and almost willing our way to the finish line.

Q. Sean, could you I know it's about your team here right now, but prior to your game, Archie gets through. Did you have an eye on that even though as you're preparing? Can you just discuss this next step in history that you guys have made?
COACH MILLER: Yeah, I mean, these guys, we watched the game in our locker room. We were all pulling for Dayton. They run a lot of the same plays we run. It was interesting to hear our players call them out. That's this, that's that. But I'm happy for Dayton. I'm happy for Archie. And I don't want to take too much of the spotlight off of what you said, our team, and really his team too. The fact that the two of us are in the Elite Eight is a very unique situation, but we'll see. Hopefully we have the ability to come back and play well on Saturday. This is about Arizona having the opportunity to get to a Final Four.

Q. Aaron, it was only five and a half minutes into the second half, but that alley oop jam, did you sense that it got the team energized and yourself?
AARON GORDON: It was a good pass from Gabe. All he had to do was throw it up there and I went and got it. In the heat of the moment I can't really hear the crowd. I'm just focused on the next play and my team. They might have called a timeout after that, and I could see everybody was up. We just had a rejuvenation to us, and we kept going off of that.

Q. Nick, the outburst you had in the final three minutes, did you notice something different in San Diego's defense that you could take advantage of? Or were your teammates creating different space for you? What was going on there?
NICK JOHNSON: No, nothing really different in their defense. Just Kaleb, or T.J. got the steal, kicked it to Gabe, and he, I guess, had the knowing to get me an easy bucket and I got that lay up. Kaleb had a big pass to me, wide open at the three point line. I just stepped in and shot the ball like I've been shooting. I mean, I felt like a few shots in the first half and in the second half didn't go down. I thought they were good shots.
But, I mean, just trying to stay with it. These guys give me great confidence to keep on shooting the ball and just finish the game. That's what I did.

Q. T.J., can you take us through the steal and also how big was it for Gabe to find Nick and get him that easy bucket?
T.J. McCONNELL: I was pretty much denying Xavier Thames and Winston Shepard kind of handed him the ball, and I stuck my hand in there and saw it rolling and I dove on it. I rolled over and saw Gabe, and Gabe made the great play by passing it back to Nick. You know, I thought that was a very pivotal point in the game.

Q. T.J., in the first half, I think you and Aaron combined for 8 of it 12 shooting, and the rest of the team was 2 for 15. I noticed you kind of took some shots that you may save for later in the game. Did you sense that with Zews in foul trouble, and things not falling for Nick. Did you sense that you had to step up and start scoring earlier?
T.J. McCONNELL: I noticed that a little bit. When I was coming off screens, they were kind of sagging off, and I kind of got to that pull up jumper that I shoot a lot, and they were falling. So when Kaleb's in foul trouble, and Nick's struggling, which doesn't happen much, me and Aaron did a good job of stepping up until Nick took over. As a team, I just thought we did well.

Q. Coach, what did you say to Kaleb when he was dealing with the foul trouble in the first half into the second half?
COACH MILLER: Well, you know, Kaleb is a very, very important piece to our team. His size defensively anchors many things and without him we're not the same. He's gotten smarter not getting in foul trouble, but tonight wasn't his night, especially him getting his fourth foul the way he did on a shot fake 17 feet from the basket. It's tough on somebody, a player in a game of this magnitude, if things aren't going well, to turn it around.
But I will tell you that part of our surge in the second half began when he came back in the game with four fouls. We got the ball to him deep in the lane, he converted. I think we kind of looked more who we are as a team. So there were a lot of our players. Nick, Kaleb, that played through a lot of adversity throughout the game. At the end, they were there for us. But it was good that Kaleb could contribute the way he did in the second half, especially with Rondae fouling out like he did.
But like I said in my opening statement, this was a game of resolve and will, both teams. And we had find a way with a lot of things not going our way here tonight.

Q. Nick, can you kind of run through the emotions of that first half, the 0 for 7, and then the emotions of the last three minutes of the game when you're with the lay up, the three and hitting all those free throws?
NICK JOHNSON: I mean, I've had a few games like this this year. It's unfortunately been our losses, so I just try to stay with it. I mean, like I said, Coach, the whole coaching staff, all the team, they're great with keeping me up. Just saying next play. When I hit one shot it just started to feel a little bit better. I mean, I just kept on hitting shots.

Q. Aaron, can you take us through, it was before T.J.'s steal Kaleb tipped an offensive rebound to you. How big are plays like that in a game like this where maybe they don't show up in the box score as much, but just with the way both teams are just kind of grinding it out there?
AARON GORDON: It was huge. A lot of basketball is played in between the lines. What I mean by that is it's just the little things that don't show up in the box score that really make the biggest difference in the game. Rebounding does show up in the box score, which is one of the key assets to this game. What he did was tip the ball and keep the ball alive. I think on one possession we had three chances to score, and on that third possession we got him the ball and he finished. So it was just a really, really big part of this game was rebounding.

Q. Aaron and Nick, you've heard Coach Miller say just in the last couple of minutes, a game about resolve and will, the hardest fought game of our season. Did it feel like that? How early in the game did you realize that it might be like that?
NICK JOHNSON: Oh, yeah, it definitely felt like that. We played these guys before. We had a battle our third game of the season at their place, so I mean, we really knew it was going to be like that since we won our last game, really and knew who we were playing. You've got to give a lot of credit to them. They're a great team. They really play hard, and I think it kind of stunned us a little bit how hard they were rebounding at the beginning. I think they had 7 offensive rebounds in the first four minutes.
So I mean, definitely one of our toughest games, just for us to bounce back. I don't know how many offensive rebounds they had in the second half, but it definitely wasn't as much as in the first half. I mean, it just shows the give the credit to our team, because we fought back and we got the win.
AARON GORDON: The poise that Coach Miller has and our team has, my teammates have, it's absolutely incredible. I love these guys to death. They play with so much heart top to bottom. Everybody has heart, and they have no quit in them. It's really easy to go through 40 minutes and give it your all when you know the person next to you is playing with their heart and leaving it all on the line.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Miller?

Q. Sean, just your thoughts on Nick's final three minutes of the game? He took kind of control of the game.
COACH MILLER: San Diego State showed a 1 3 1 zone, especially against New Mexico. We watched all three New Mexico games quite a bit. Knew that they had success with, especially with Dwayne Polee at the top of it. When I saw them go to it the first time, we had a lot of timeouts, so we called one just to make sure we were organized against it. When we came out of the timeout, they went man to man. Then they tried it again on the most pivotal part of the game. Our guys were ready. We executed first side, second side. Threw the ball inside. Kaleb, I think, was the person who passed it out. Nick got a great look. That three came against their 1 3 1, not against their man to man.
So, in a game like this, like Aaron mentioned, there are a lot of little things. But our poise, when they changed defenses that late in the game and to create a good open three and then make it is one of the reasons that we won. That to me was a huge turning point, not really a turning point, but gave us a gap. Gave us a confidence that the game was going in our direction.
Nick has to make the shot. Early in his career, like all young players, it's not easy to put a bad first half behind you and come up big at the end. But between his free throw shooting and that three point shot, it's amazing for a kid to be able to do that after not making shots for about 25, 30 straight minutes.
When I talk about will and resolve and having a toughness about our team, it's the willingness to take the shot and then make it when things haven't gone your way the entire game, especially in a game like this of such great meaning.
THE MODERATOR: Coach you want to talk about the match up at all Saturday?
COACH MILLER: No, I mean, obviously, I know Wisconsin very well. We know them very well. A few years ago when I was at Xavier we actually played them in the NCAA tournament. We played them in Maui in our first year here at Arizona. I know Bo Ryan well. He's one of the best coaches in the game. They've had a great season, play in a tremendous league. I know they're really skilled. I know from Wisconsin's perspective they seem to score a little bit easier than maybe some of the other teams.
But whoever you play in this next game is going to be just a great team who has had a fantastic season. But part of being successful in this next game is to not make the game we just played that big. We've won. We're excited. But to turn around so quick that you have to be really ready here at 5:00, whatever the game is on Saturday, I think that's our question to put this behind us and play for a Final Four berth.

Q. Obviously, it's a stressful job for you. Did this game feel more stressful than many of them? COACH MILLER: You know, it really didn't, and probably because in our first exhibition game I feel a lot of stress. They're all the same. You're trying to win every one of them, and it's not just me. It's the coaching staff. It's a team. We have high expectations of ourselves; our program has high expectations. Right now we have a golden opportunity.
But I wouldn't say our mindset or my mindset was any different in this game than it would have been a game in November. We're all trying to win and be the best we can on this day. When you start making things at this level bigger than you need to, that's not going to help anybody, especially if you're the coach. We know what's at stake; everyone does. It's about us sticking to our guns, having that identity in place, and being the best team we can be. For us, that now means on Saturday evening.

Q. Coach, how concerned are you regarding team rebounding? I think this is the fourth game in a row dating back to UCLA where you've actually been outrebounded kind of significantly.
COACH MILLER: I think a couple things. One, I'm going to address head on because to me the cat is out of the bag. People say that we're a big team. We're not. When Brandon left us, our size is good, but it's not great. And at this level, we rely on a three guard lineup now more than ever. That affects our offensive rebounding, and tonight it affected our defensive rebounding. There are times when we play Rondae at the three with Aaron and Kaleb, and that is our biggest group.
But as we sub, we're smaller now. Our room for error was lost rebounding the ball. We don't beat you up any more. We're good at it, but we're no longer great. I think the key for us on Saturday is again to learn that our margin for error rebounding is very small. We need all five guys on every shot to block out. We have to work hard to get second shots. We can do it. It's not like we're terrible, but if you just start looking, you've got Gabe, T.J. and Nick out there for significant minutes, although we're a more skilled team. For example, we had seven turnovers tonight. It's hard to have seven turnovers against that team. That's something we're doing better because we play this group.
But you feel it a little bit rebounding. We have to address that, but it's something that I think we all came to realize a long time ago that that, more than anything is what Brandon Ashley had in place for us. We didn't have a drop off in size, now we do. So our way of doing it has to be we have to do it as a team. We have to block out. Our guards got to rebound. We did a better job in the second half against them than we did in the first half.

Arizona - San Diego State Postgame Locker Room Quotes

Arizona Freshman Forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
(On Offense in Second Half) "We were just more focused and we played a lot more aggressively. We tried to get around a bit more and really concentrated on making our shots."
(Thoughts on moving on to Elite Eight) "We just put our focus on this game and now we have to get ready for that. We have some film to watch."
(On Nick Johnson) "Nick is a great player, he is our leader. Once he starts going, he got me, Aaron and some other guys out on fire. Once he starts going, it's hard to beat us. His last three minutes were tremendous, making all of those free throws in a row, especially with all of that pressure. If he missed one, we could have lost and that is a lot of pressure."
(On knowledge of Wisconsin) "The only thing that I know about Wisconsin is that Bo Ryan is from my city. We expect a lot of defense from them. I know Bo Ryan loves defense about as much as we do, so it is going to be a tough game."
(On preparing for Saturday) "We are just going to go watch some film and have practice tomorrow. We're just going to take it day-by-day until Saturday."
Arizona Sophomore Guard Gabe York
(Free throw to give Arizona 4-pt lead) "It's a surreal feeling. I missed the first one so I was a little upset about that but I just cleared my mind and said let's move on to the next one. I still had one more free throw. I'm shooting like 93% in practice. I've shot a million free throws in my lifetime. I just had to see the ball go through the basket and it ended up going in for me."
(Advancing to Elite 8) "It's a great feeling. Last year we felt we left some money on the table. We were right there. It was a last second shot and Ohio State hit it. It's something where I'm so happy to be a part of it. Last year I didn't really get a chance to play but being a significant part of this team this year is a dream come true.
(Key point in the game) "Honestly I think Rondae's performance tonight is what kept us in the game. When we were down eight, Rondae was stepping up. He was getting offensive rebounds; he was dunking the ball. And we forced some turnovers. TJ (McConnell) had a huge turnover that he passed to me and I gave the ball to Nick and he got a layup. The alley-oop I threw to Aaron (Gordon) sort of hyped us all up and we love that when we see someone get a huge dunk. It definitely brings us together as a team."
Arizona Sophomore Center Kaleb Tarczewski
(Facing adversity) "We've been in a lot of tough situations. They are a wonderful team and you have to give them tremendous credit on how hard they played. They came out strong and you could tell they wanted to win. They kind of punched us in the mouth in the beginning of the game. Through the adversity of the game we did a good job of sticking with it and keeping our confidence."
(Offensive rebounds) "We are at our best when we do well on the glass. They killed us on the glass. That is why it was such a tough game for us. That is something we are definitely going to look at for Saturday."
(TJ's steal) "It was unbelievable. We owe it all to TJ. He showed us tremendous poise throughout the game running our team. He came up with a huge play like that and we finished on the other end. It really boosted our team."

San Diego State Junior Forward JJ O'Brien
(Overview) "They made a lot of plays, you've got to give credit to them. They made their free throws down the stretch and we just weren't able to match that."
(The seniors) "I feel for them right now. Knowing it's their last game and that we could have kept going. I love them to death, they gave everything they've got. I respect them.
(What have you learned from the seniors) "To fight. I've never been a part of a team like this that has so much fight. They fought so much for us.
San Diego State Freshman Guard Dakarai Allen
(Overview on Sweet 16 game) "That's the hardest I think we played all year. It just didn't go our way in the end."
(Would there be a different outcome if it had been a team besides Arizona) "Arizona is a real good team. At the end it just fell apart and we didn't get a few plays to go our way."
(On the year) "I'm appreciative of the whole season. For us to be here, it was a great season."
(Xavier Thames) "He gave everything every game. He left everything on the floor. I don't think he's going to regret anything besides losing because every game he gave it his all."
San Diego State Sophomore Winston Shepard
(On the difference in the game) "We just didn't make enough plays down the stretch."
(Team's effort) "Everybody played hard, everybody always plays hard. Everybody always gives it their all, tonight was no different."
(On emotions of the season coming to an end),/I> "Just look at this locker room and see, nobody's happy. We really had a good enough team to go deep in the tournament."
(On the play of seniors Xavier Thames and Josh Davis) "X is a great player, Josh is as well. X is a clutch player and he's been clutch for us all season."